In Italy, there are four types of mafia, which are all based in the south of Italy. But they operate in all of Italy, with business everywhere in the country and internationally. But the most powerful bosses live in the south of Italy, where they usually live and don't want to move.
For them, staying in the region where they were born is a sign of power. Furthermore, they can control the criminal operations, but they also show that they are not afraid to leave.
'Ndrangheta is based in Calabria and is, at present, the most powerful one in Italy. In addition, this mafia is famous for its code of silence and low profile. In fact, it wasn't very well known until 15 years ago. There were even people who didn't even know the name of this mafia. He's also famous for his deep connections with the government and politics.
Then there is Cosa Nostra, based in Sicily; Camorra in Naples; and Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia. All of these mafias are organized differently. In this article, I will write about 'Ndrangheta, how it is structured, and his cruel way of operating.
The intricate structure of the 'Ndrangheta
Authorities believe there are some 150 'Ndrangheta families in Calabria and at least 6,000 members and affiliates in the region, with thousands more worldwide.
Luigi Mancuso, known as (Uncle Luigi) "U Signurino," is considered among the most powerful bosses on a national and international scale. Arrested in June 1993, he was released from prison in July 2012, 11 years early.
At the very top of the club is the Crimine, led by the boss called the Capo Crimine. Next to him is the Mastro di Giornata, who helps him. They also have other important people, such as the Mastro General, the Capo Societa (head of the club), and the Contabile (money person).
The club is divided into three teams. These teams are the Tirrenian, the Ionic, and the Centre, just like dividing their home into three parts.
Each team has smaller groups called 'Ndrina, which are like families and take care of different areas. Some 'ndrina are big with lots of members, and some are smaller, but they usually have at least 50 people. Inside a 'Ndrina, there are two groups: the Societe Maggiore (big society) and the Societe Minore (small society). New members start as Picciotto Liscio and can become Picciotto Sgarro.
The Societe Maggiore is a bit like the Crimine but smaller. They have a leader called the Capo Locale (local boss). After being a Picciotto Sgarro, members can move up in ranks, such as Santista, Vangelo, Trequartino, Quintino, and Associazione. They can even try to get important jobs in the club through the yearly elections.
How 'Ndrangheta operates
'Ndrangheta operates in over 40 countries around the world. Drug trafficking (mainly cocaine) continues to be the most lucrative form of business, with an estimated annual value of $320 billion.
But there are other criminal activities they are involved in, such as extortion, prostitution, weapon trafficking, usury, cigarette smuggling, robbery, illegal gambling, and illegal immigration trafficking.
Furthermore, it owns restaurants, bars, and hotels, in big cities like Rome and Milan in Italy, but later I will explain where it operates mainly abroad too. And in this article in our magazine, you can read how it operates in cities like Rome.
Nowadays, the largest consumption of cocaine is in the Americas and Europe (1). Italian investigators estimate the 'Ndrangheta controls around 80% of Europe's cocaine trade. With an annual revenue of about €35–40 billion (US$35–40 billion), which amounts to approximately 3.5% of the GDP of Italy.
Gioia Tauro is Italy's biggest port, and one of the largest in Europe, making it a key gateway for cocaine entering the continent. But cocaine is also entering Europe through the ports of Rotterdam (Holland) and Antwerp (Belgium), where only 20% of the containers are checked.
The question is why only 20% of the containers are checked and not all of them. The statistic shows that in Europe, Holland is the highest consumer of cocaine in all of Europe.
The 'Ndrangheta operates in various countries around the world, primarily in Europe, but also extending its reach to other continents.
The 'Ndrangheta, has extended its operations across the globe. It can be found in various countries, mainly in Europe but also in other parts of the world. Let's explore where they operate: in Europe, the 'Ndrangheta has a significant presence in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France. This expansion is often linked to the existence of Italian immigrant communities that provide a foundation for 'Ndrangheta activities.
Moving across the Atlantic, Canada is another hotspot for 'Ndrangheta clans. They've established themselves prominently in places like Ontario, exerting considerable influence over organized crime in the country. Heading further south to Australia, 'Ndrangheta groups operate in states like Victoria and New South Wales, demonstrating their global reach.
Even in the United States, the 'Ndrangheta has made inroads, particularly in areas like New York and Florida. 'Ndrangheta collaborates with Cosa Nostra for the trafficking of cocaine in the USA.
Over several decades, 'Ndrangheta clans have become the main European allies for some of Latin America's most experienced cocaine traffickers. From Mexico to Ecuador, and from Colombia to Brazil, Ndrangheta operatives have been arrested on drug trafficking charges in virtually every country in the Americas.
Even Uruguay detained one of the 'Ndrangheta's foremost leaders, Rocco Morabito, in 2017. He escaped over the roof of his prison and spent two years on the run before his May 2021 recapture in Brazil.
Notably, they're not confined to Europe and the Americas; reports suggest 'Ndrangheta involvement in Africa, primarily in the drug trade.
This global expansion poses significant challenges for law enforcement agencies as the 'Ndrangheta continues to adapt and expand its influence into new territories.
Will the 'Ndrangheta come to an end?
Many people, also in the south of Italy, want the mafia to end because we all know that it is not only drug selling but more. It is also disturbing for good people to do something without their consent and against their rights.
For example, a family from Calabria was forced to sell their land in 1993 because it was strategic for mafia operations. But this family fought against the request of Mancuso's family. In 2014, has been found the body of Matteo, killed by a car bomb.
When I was younger, I used to work and sell shoes in the local market during school summer break. And remember that the Mafia was coming to ask the ''Pizzo''. This is basically a part of your daily income or just a fixed daily price.
Of course, people who were not giving it were threatened with arms or bombs in the market trucks. Or they were committing robberies if you didn't give them what they wanted.
In my opinion, 'Ndrangheta, as well as the mafia in general, will never end. Especially because most of the income comes from drug trafficking, and as we all know, drugs have existed since humans started to live. So until there are cocaine or drug consumers, how can we think of permanently deleting the mafia? Are we really sure that they are only responsible? Or also, who consumes has its responsibilities? And we all know that cocaine is the drug of choice for rich people and is very popular in politics too.
The same politics and government that want to arrest them. The same politics that forgot the south of Italy, leaving it isolated, without proper education, and opportunities for young people to follow their dreams and to have better job opportunities.